The Clocks by Agatha Christie

July 27, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): Sheila Webb, typist-for-hire, has arrived at 19 Wilbraham Crescent in the seaside town of Crowdean to accept a new job. What she finds is a well-dressed corpse surrounded by five clocks. Mrs. Pebmarsh, the blind owner of No. 19, denies all knowledge of ringing Sheila’s secretarial agency and asking for her by name — yet someone did. Nor does she own that many clocks. And neither woman seems to know the victim. Colin Lamb, a young intelligence specialist working a case of his own at the nearby naval yard, happens to be on the scene at the time of Sheila Webb’s ghastly discovery. Lamb knows of only one man who can properly investigate a crime as bizarre and baffling as what happened inside No. 19 — his friend and mentor, Hercule Poirot.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • This had to be one of the greatest murder mystery setups of all time! It was quite a shock to learn that those clocks didn’t belong to Mrs. Pebmarsh, and from that point forward I was hooked because I just had to know what was the significance of those clocks!
  • Am I supposed to know who Colin Lamb is? I’ve read all Christie books prior to this one, but don’t recall the character. The way he was spoken of in the book, as a great friend of Poirot, etc. made me feel like he had made a prior appearance. At any rate, I thought he was a decent narrator. I liked when the story was told from his point of view better than when it was the generic third-person pov.
  • I recognized the Rear Window connection immediately, but had to look up dates to see which came first, Hitchcock or Christie. The Hitchcock film was made in 1954, while this book was published in 1963, so I guess the girl with the broken leg was Dame Agatha’s shoutout to Hitch.
  • Poirot finally did what he has always said he could do: he solved a case without talking to a single witness, visiting a single crime scene, or leaving his armchair!

Disliked:

  • Oh, man, that ending was simply terrible! It felt like such a cheap cop-out to have the clocks not signify anything at all. How did Poirot manage to guess that the clocks were merely placed there as a diversion to make the murder seem more complex than it actually was?
  • I didn’t feel as though readers had a legitimate shot of solving this one. There were too many red herrings and facts that didn’t emerge until too late to make a decent guess.
  • Wow, that’s not any kind of neighborhood I’d like to live in. It seemed like such a quiet, out-of-the-way place, but it actually harbored brutal killers and spies.

Rating:

The Clocks by Agatha Christie starts out so well that the momentum from the opening scenes carries readers quite a long way through the book. I found that I was pretty much interested in this one from beginning to end, and couldn’t wait to see what the solution was. Unfortunately, the solution was a massive disappointment and drops my rating down to 3 stars out of 5.

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